Originally: US Turns Blind Eye to Concrete Steps Made by Haiti to Combat Trafficking in
US Turns Blind Eye to Concrete Steps Made by Haiti to Combat Trafficking in
The release yesterday of the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons
Report, placing Haiti in the category of least compliant countries, came as a
complete shock to the Government of Haiti. Over the past two years Haiti’s
government has made significant progress to enforce the human rights and quality of
life for its children, as well as passing legislation in May prohibiting
trafficking in persons and banning the provision of the labor code which sanctioned
child domestic labor. (See below for more details on efforts made by the
Government of Haiti.)
The State Department defines a tier 3 rating as applying to those countries
“whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not
making significant efforts to do so.” Haiti’s Minister of Education, Marie
Carmel Paul Austin, explained that placing Haiti in this category “is unjustified
and appears completely at odds with the criteria used to rate other listed
countries in their efforts to combat trafficking.”
An example of how the report does not consistently apply its own criteria and
fails to take into consideration measures taken by the Haitian government,
while praising and crediting identical efforts made by other nations, can be
found in the area of education. Haiti’s Universal Schooling program has
increased access to schooling through construction of additional schools in rural and
urban areas, subsidizing school uniforms and textbooks by 70%, expanding its
hot lunch program, increasing its school bus program, and waging a nationwide
literacy program, now in its second year.
These measures to promote greater school enrollment in Haiti were not even
in the report as preventive measures to combat child domestic service,
whereas in the case of 17 other countries ranked tier 1 and tier 2 nations, raising
school enrollment is cited as a significant preventive measure.
Many glaring contradictions are evident when comparing Haiti with other
countries who were placed in less damning categories. The State Department report
completely ignored the important provision of Haiti’s anti-trafficking
legislation that rescinds the provision of the Labor Code sanctioning child domestic
service — which has long been criticized by the human rights community. Oddly
enough, 13 countries with no anti-trafficking legislation whatsoever are
ranked tier 2 or tier 1, while Haiti is ranked tier 3.
Contrary to what was reported in the State Department’s report, Haiti has
made important strides to address the root cause of domestic servitude, took
preventive measures such as the passage of critical legislation and is creating
structures for implementation and enforcement of these changes. The State
Department report faults Haiti for not “arresting or prosecuting traffickers” while
there is no documentation of prosecution for 4 countries listed in the report
which are ranked tier 2. Not mentioned in the report is Haiti’s new special
police unit that was recently trained and activated for the protection of
children and the promotion of their rights.
This turning of a blind eye to the numerous achievements made by the
Government of Haiti begs the question as to whether the rating placed against Haiti is
not just another attempt to denigrate the Haitian government. “Placing Haiti
on this list is truly outrageous in light of President Aristide’s unilateral
and historic efforts to fight against the problem of restaveks and the
Parliament’s passage of new and extremely progressive law on these issues, ” said Ira
Kurzban, General Counsel to the Government of Haiti.
While the State Department report itself cites Haiti’s economic conditions as
an obstacle to improving social conditions, Haiti remains under a US-led
financial embargo. Recent press coverage has been increasingly sympathetic to
Haiti’s humanitarian crisis exacerbated by this two-year old embargo and there is
an increased clamor in the US Congress, as well as in peace and religious
circles, to lift the embargo on Haiti. Ironically, countries receiving
yesterday’s State Department tier 3 rating become subject to financial sanctions by the
US and international financial institutions providing development assistance.
In the absence of a logical explanation for the unjust rating of Haiti,
Kurzban further added, “It is completely political, having nothing to do with the
reality of what Haiti has done.”
Recent efforts by the Government of Haiti to Combat Trafficking in Persons
Education: Universal Schooling program for increased access to school,
subsidized school uniforms and textbooks (increasing to 70% Fall 2003), constructed
schools in rural and urban areas, expanded school hot lunch program, expanded
school bus program.
Anti-Trafficking Legislation/Prosecution: On May 15, 2003 Haiti’s Parliament
enacted anti-trafficking legislation and also repealed a provision of the
Labor Code sanctioning child domestic service.
Police Training: Creation of a special 33 officer brigade to protect minors
forms of abuse, including abuses related to child domestic service.
Border efforts include steps to increase specialized border patrols. A
presidential commission is accessing and addressing border issues.
Birth Certificates/Travel Documents: This government recently renewed a
previous commitment to register all birth certificates free of cost.
Haiti has long required parental consent for any child traveling without a